Known and Suspected Terrorists Can Buy Guns in America

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Under current federal law, being a known or suspected terrorist doesn’t disqualify you from buying guns and explosives. A Democratic Senator has introduced a bill that would close what he calls the “Terror Gap.”

On Tuesday, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), reintroduced the bill—it’s called the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act—saying in a statement, “our gun laws have gaping holes that allow known and suspected terrorists to walk into a gun store and leave with legally purchased deadly weapons.”

Right now, people on terrorism watch lists often aren’t allowed to get on planes, but the federal government is has no way to stop them from buying weapons unless a background check shows they are prohibited for another reason, like if they are mentally ill, or an undocumented immigrant, or have a criminal record. Lautenberg’s bill would give the Attorney General the authority to stop the sale of guns or bombs when a background check shows that the purchaser is a known or suspected terrorist, and the AG “reasonably believes” that the person may use the weapon in connection with a plot against Americans. (One problem: many people on terror watch lists are not in fact terrorists.)

According to the Government Accountability Office, people on the terror watch lists were cleared to proceed with a weapons purchase ninety-one percent of the time, a total of 1,321 times, between February 2004 and December 2010. Nidal Malik Hasan, the accused Fort Hood shooter, for example, had ties with Yemen-based cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

“This is common-sense legislation that does not infringe on a gun-owner’s rights, and will protect our troops and our nation,” the veterans group Vet Voice Foundation said in a press release in February.

Not shockingly, the bill has broad bi-partisan support in both chambers. The Bush administration endorsed the legislation. The NRA, however, opposes the measure. In 2011, the gun rights group said the bill was “aimed primarily at law-abiding American gun owners.” The no-guns-for-terrorists bill has been reintroduced for years and has gone nowhere.

Lautenberg says he hopes the proposal will be included in the package of gun measures now being considered in Congress. “From attacks on Ft. Hood to Mumbai, terror plots carried out using guns and readily available explosives are more and more common,” Lautenberg said, “and we must act to stop terrorists from getting these weapons and killing Americans.”

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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